Esports Arena: Longtime 'Overwatch' Broadcaster Departs; 'League of Legends' Sets 2020 Regional Play Dates

Overwatch League Grand Finals - Day 2 at Barclays Center on July 28, 2018 - Getty -H 2019
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment

Elsewhere in competitive gaming, NRG Esports exits 'Dragonball FighterZ' scene and a trio of prominent 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' players re-up their contracts.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

Overwatch League host Malik Forté, a staple on the broadcast team since its inception, has announced he will be leaving at the end of his current contract. Forté is the fifth member of the OWL broadcast team to announce his departure since the 2019 season ended in September, with Erik “Doa” Lonnquist, Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat and Chris Puckett also electing to pursue other career opportunities. 

Speaking with Kotaku about his upcoming departure, Forté cited disappointment over his new offer as the reason for leaving, saying, “I guess they didn’t think I was worth what I asked for, so we never reached a number that made sense for me to continue on.” Forté added that he has “nothing but the utmost respect” for the OWL team. 

The news comes on the heels of a report from DotEsports that Blizzard is behind on payment to players on the Overwatch Contenders circuit. Blizzard acknowledged that some payments were indeed behind, but insisted it was “less than 10 percent of the total” payments owed for season two.

Elsewhere, with the calendar turning to 2020, Riot Games has officially announced the start dates of the new League of Legends season for all four of its regional leagues. The action kicked off earlier this week with the Asian League of Legends Pro League (LPL) where 2018 World Champion Invictus Gaming defeated last year’s winner FunPlus Phoenix. Two of the three other major regions — the North American League Championship Series (LCS) and League of Legends European Championship (LEC) — will kick off on Jan. 24-26, while the remaining region, League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), begins on Feb. 5. All the separate leagues' seasons will culminate in the League of Legends World Championship 2020 in Shanghai later this year.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

NRG Releases Dragon Ball FighterZ Pro HookGangGod

NRG Esports has officially pulled out of the Dragon Ball FighterZ scene with the release of its final DBFZ player Eduardo “HookGangGod” Deno. NRG signed Deno at the height of DBFZ’s popularity in 2019 and he did not disappoint, placing first in the game at various tournaments, including Frosty Faustings XI, Winter Brawl 3D Edition and second at Combo Breaker 2019. Deno had kind words to say about the organization on Twitter after his release: “As of today I am no longer apart of @NRGgg. Wish them the best and appreciate the support they gave me. Im interested in new opportunities for Gran blue Fantasy versus / DBFZ Season 3. Feel free to Email or DM me. RTs appreciated.”

Renegades Replaces Legendary CS:GO Player 

Australian CounterStrike: Global Offensive team Renegades has signed Jordan “Hatz” Bajic to its active roster, replacing longtime Renegades player Oliver “DickStacy” Tierney, who left the team on Jan. 6. Bajic has risen in the ranks of the Australian CS:GO circuit, most recently playing for ORDER before signing with Renegades, where he will join his former ORDER teammate Simon “Sico” Williams. Renegades’s first match with its new teammate will be during the ESEA MDL Australia Season 33 which began on Jan. 13. Tierney has yet to sign with another squad.

Trio of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Pros Re-Up Contracts

Three prominent members of the pro Super Smash Bros Ultimate community have re-signed with their respective teams for 2020. Eric “ESAM” Lew renewed his contract with Panda Global, where he’s been a member since 2015, while Jestise “MVD” Negron re-upped with Thunder Gaming and Ezra “Samsora” Morris returned to eUnited. The signings come two weeks before EVO Japan 2020, where Ultimate’s registration reached 2,987 players, more than double the next highest game, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, with 1,462.